A letter to the Parents of Junior Golfers

Bob-Duncan-4cFor two days I observed over 200 juniors in the Oregon State High School Championships tee off as I worked as a starter for the event at Emerald Valley GC. I observed no more than 10% of the players hitting the fairway with their tee shots. And from what I observed in their golf bags, their clubs are more to blame than anything.

As an experienced teaching and coaching professional, I strongly believe that golf clubs can more easily corrupt your junior’s golf swing and performance than they can enhance it. Therefore, I strongly urge you to better understand that equipment DOES make a difference, and that:

  • Loft is the single biggest element that will either enhance, allow, or prevent your child’s performance.

AND,

  • Lower lofts on drivers are for much more accomplished players with higher swing speeds.
  • Stiffer flexes in shafts are for stronger and more accomplished players with higher swing speeds.
  • The lie angle of your child’s irons, hybrids, and fairway woods DOES matter.

AND, most importantly:

  • Higher lofts on drivers – even as high as 16 degrees – are more beneficial for beginner and developing players with more shot variance and lower swing speeds.
  • More flexible shafts are more playable for beginner and developing players with lower swing speeds and more shot variance than stiffer shafts.
  • Individual clubs that are less than 50% successful for players should not be used or included in the set used on the course.
  • The lie angle of your child’s irons, hybrids, and fairway woods does matter. (I know – I said that twice…)
  • A “good” set of clubs is a set that fits and promotes a proper swing, rather than simply being from a reputable company.

Many times well-meaning parents buy a new premier-branded driver and/or set of clubs for their child with the intent of fostering better play and a passion for the game. But, without proper clubfitting, those bright and shiny new clubs can be just as detrimental to your child’s game as his/her initial passion for getting a new set. Worse yet is when a junior gets a hand-me-down driver that they can’t even begin to hit well…

What’s really happening here? There are 3 connection points to the ground when playing golf. The right foot, the left foot, and the impact of the club, ball, and ground. Each of these needs to be addressed.

Obviously getting properly fitted shoes is a key to the connection of the feet and is more easily accomplished. But, the connection of the club to the ball and to the ground is more complex to the individual, and very important to the teaching professional to work out.

Consider a lesson in which the loft of the club is too low and the flex is too stiff. The resulting ball flight is usually a push and/or slice. When this occurs, the face is not only open but is in addition more lofted! Now, the player will try and try to compensate for the ball flight, but because the loft is too low and the shaft too stiff it will be not only difficult to ‘square’ the club at impact, the player will not be rewarded by the lower loft when he/she accomplishes it!

What happens during the resulting lesson? The teacher must compensate for the club’s specifications, trying to force the club to add loft at impact and ‘square up’, 2 things that don’t really complement each other.

This often moves the player away from easier and more biomechanically sound swings and principles.

Instead of helping the child get better, often new equipment that is not properly fitted can prevent progress, or even cause the player to get worse.

What’s the bottom line? Higher lofts go straighter, and never is that more important than when the player is developing. Think of it this way: If the ball is going straighter, we sure don’t have to put a lot of energy into correcting the ball flight direction, and we can move on to other things!

What are your solutions?

  • Include the pro your child is working with in choosing the specifications of the clubs.
  • Don’t buy clubs ‘off the rack’. Make sure the fitter is a teacher and is invested in matching the swing with the clubs, and the clubs with the swing.
  • Don’t buy clubs with lower lofts in which your child and the teacher/fitter have not verified performance. If he/she can’t hit a 6-iron reliably, he/she should not own or use a 5-iron, or if he/she can’t hit a 5-wood reliably, he/she should not own or use a 3-wood. And the driver loft should be much higher for the vast majority of juniors.
  • Think about adding a 9-wood or a 7-wood to your junior’s set. Higher lofted fairway woods are often easier to hit than hybrids or low-lofted irons – especially out of the rough!

And remember: We teaching and coaching professionals who are working with your children have their best interests at heart, and it makes our jobs more difficult when players are using clubs that actually prevent your child from performing. They can actually prevent what we are trying to teach. Let’s work together to foster great performance and a lifetime of enjoyment of the game of golf.

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